The game plan for Lutcher’s football team has been in place for about a week.
It doesn’t involve the offense scoring touchdowns or the defense denying an opponent the end zone. It’s all about the Bulldogs being able to enter the Dawg Pound and work in save conditions in the era of the coronavirus.
“For check-in, we have a health screen we have to go through,” Lutcher coach Dwain Jenkins explained. “We are checking to see if there is any conditions that they may have developed since the last time we saw them over the last 24 hours – sore throat, coughing, shortness of breath, fever or with anybody they have come in direct contact with has tested positive or had any symptoms of COVID. Those are the first things and then we do a temperature check.
“For the most part, everything has kind of flowed pretty good. One of the things that we stressed to our kids throughout this whole process getting started was if they can answer ‘yes’ to any of those questions, don’t even show up on campus and send us a text that you are coming because of those reasons.”
That’s just to enter the building. After that comes the protocols implemented for safe training during summer workout activities.
The Bulldog players are divided into groups of 15 to 20 players each. The first check-in period begins at 8 a.m. The first group of players go to the field to warm up before heading to the weight room. The players then work out in the weight room for approximately 45 minutes and the whole process starts all over again with three more groups until everyone gets their work in.
“We have them spread out to where there is no overlap of the use of facilities,” explained Jenkins. “It’s just a constant rotation and we do that four times on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and we do it three times on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”
“I think we got into a pretty good routine,” the Lutcher coach continued. “I think some of the positives are that the way we have everybody broken up, we have all the offensive guys that work out together, so we have varsity offensive group of all positions. We basically have our best 15-20 offensive guys and our 15-20 best defensive guys working out together with their position coaches all day long. I think there is a lot of good feedback going on there. I think there is good communication between our coaches and players.”
Between each session, the coaches sanitize the area.
“We met with our janitorial system services and they provide us with the commercial disinfectants that they use. Our shifts of coaches come through and we clean every touched surface – that’s every dumbbell, every bar, bench, rack, clips, every weight. Wiping the handles to the bathrooms and doors between every session. At each weight rack, we have sanitizers for the kids to use between every lift. It takes about 15-20 minutes between each session to wipe everything down,” said Jenkins.
The work gets done as it did in the past, but it takes a lot longer than previous summers, according to Jenkins.
“A year ago, we used to bring in everybody,” Jenkins said. “We start at 8 a.m. and had groups of about 45 or 50. There were two lifting groups. By the time you rotate everybody through, we were normally done about 11:30 Monday through Thursday so everybody had four days a week and the coaches were off in the afternoons. Now we are five days a week and that last group will get out about 2:30 or 3 p.m. The days are extended and now we are working on Fridays.”
No matter the routine, the players said they are happy to just get together for workouts.
“It feels great. I’ve been waiting to get back since we stopped. I feel like we have a lot of people returning,” said quarterback Mekhi Patterson, who will be a senior in the fall.
“The system we have set up right now helps so we can work out and do some running so we can get in shape for the season this year because it’s been going crazy with this corona and everything that is going on in the world,” said running back Ra’suan Storks, who also will be a senior in the fall.
The team, players and coaches agree, would be way ahead of where they are now had it been a typical offseason.
“We’d be out there working like crazy. I don’t know how to explain it but it would be a whole different level,” said Patterson.
“At this point, normally we would be doing 7-on-7 and doing our offensive and defensive installs and possibly doing some special teams things but we just haven’t gotten to that point, yet,” said Jenkins.
“We are not in great shape but I think we’ve been in great spirits and great attitudes,” Jenkins added. “We’ve had some guys that haven’t been able to finish early-on, but it’s getting better and better.”
With a long period of inactivity, the current emphasis is placed on conditioning rather than football-related activities, according to Jenkins.
“We used last week as kind of a gauge to try and determine where our guys were coming back from three months out. We haven’t started focusing on anything that’s truly football yet. It’s been mostly lifting and conditioning and biometrics just to try and see where the guys are,” Jenkins said.
Conditioning, or lack thereof, is something always noticed by coaches.
“I think Coach (David) Brewerton at Zachary had the best quote. Talking about that, he said, ‘You find out the guys that did something over the break and you find the guys who at Cocoa Puffs and played Fortnite the whole time real quick.’
“You see the guys who may not have done so much activities but were outside a lot. I think that’s one of the biggest things is adjusting to the climate after being inside watching TV and playing video games in the air conditioning are having a little tougher time than the guys who did a little bit of running or playing basketball or did a little fishing.”
The returning football players of a year ago had a chance to complete their season but saw last year’s seniors miss out on their final year of competition because of the virus.
Has that led to a new group of seniors developing a different attitude when it comes to school and athletics?
“Completely,” said Patterson. “We are honored right now just to be working out. If we get to play a football season, that would be great.”